Preparation underway for VKC Reading Clinic Summer 2018 program

VKC Reading Clinic

The VKC Reading Clinic works year-round to pinpoint struggles in young readers and to craft their tutoring to make reading fun, and summer is no exception! Clinic teachers and staff are gearing up for the Clinic’s Summer 2018 session, June 11-July 19.

Elise McMillan, J.D.

Elise McMillan, J.D.

“The VKC Reading Clinic serves families all year, but summer break truly provides us with an opportunity to offer a more concentrated lesson plan to our young readers and their families,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), director of Community Engagement and Public Policy, and senior lecturer in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. “It’s a joy to see students become more confident in their reading skills and be able to take their achievements with them into the new school year.”

The VKC Reading Clinic provides individualized, one-to-one tutoring using assessments and evidence-based instructional methods shown to promote reading in struggling readers with learning disabilities and dyslexia in grades K-8.

Sissy Peters, M.Ed.

Sissy Peters, M.Ed.

“We currently have 28 tutors and 31 tutees,” said VKC Reading Clinic coordinator Sissy Peters. “Our tutors hail from a myriad of different backgrounds, including Peabody Special Education undergraduate and graduate students focusing on high incidence and low incidence disabilities; graduate students in Teaching and Learning at Peabody; Speech Language Pathology master’s and doctoral candidates from VUMC; current teachers in the field; and undergraduates in other disciplines at Vanderbilt.”

The VKC Reading Clinic is led by faculty director Laurie Cutting, Ph.D., Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Special Education, professor of Psychology, Radiology, and Pediatrics, and associate director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Specific to the Reading Clinic, Cutting also teaches a graduate-level Special Education course on Advanced Reading Methods for Students with Severe and Persistent Academic and Behavior Difficulties. As part of the curriculum, graduate students are matched with a tutee to apply their evidence-based theoretical knowledge in a practical setting. Those students are provided additional support and feedback from Cutting, Clinic coordinator Peters, and Clinic instructional coordinator Shari Jensen.

“As research continues to guide best practice, we are constantly seeking to integrate groundbreaking evidence-based curricula,” said Peters. “For example, Project ERIC is a specialized curriculum developed a few years ago by [Special Education assistant professor] Chris Lemons, Ph.D., for students with Down syndrome. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to pilot this incredible program with some of our students at the Reading Clinic. This has revolutionized our ability to directly–and systematically–teach to the specific needs of this population.

“Furthermore, we have implemented the Making Connection Intervention (MCI) curriculum, which explicitly teaches reading comprehension skills to middle school students,” Peters continued. “Research has shown that most children spend grades 1 to 3 learning to read and grades 4 and above reading to learn. It is at this crucial transition point where success in each academic subject is heavily reliant on strong reading comprehension skills. Unfortunately, many students who struggle with reading in elementary school often arrive in middle school lacking this essential skill set. MCI addresses these deficits by systematically teaching key concepts such as identifying main idea and details, comparing and contrasting texts, making inferences, recognizing viewpoint, etc. After meticulously working through each stage of the key concepts, students realize that they have ultimately learned how to effectively summarize a passage in written form.”

“We’re honored to have Sissy Peters as our Reading Clinic coordinator,” said Elise McMillan. “Sissy did her training and received her master’s degree in Special Education at Peabody. She understands the Clinic from the perspective of both the student trainees and the families. Sissy, along with Shari Jensen, provide wonderful leadership for this program. Both of them have previous classroom teaching experience, which I think is very helpful in their responsibilities with the Clinic.”

Behind all of the individual assessments and weekly tutoring sessions, the simple goal of the VKC Reading Clinic is to make reading a joy instead of a burden to each child who passes through the Clinic doors.

“Many children arrive at the VKC Reading Clinic with a negative view of reading,” said Peters. “Once a child (and his or her family) starts at the Reading Clinic, they often experience a great sense of relief because our instruction is tailored to their specific needs. Our tutors are trained using the most current and effective research methods to guide their instruction. Our faculty advisors and staff work closely with the tutors to ensure that their tutee is continually progressing based on the interventions selected. It is quite common for us to see a transformation in a student’s self-esteem and eagerness to learn.”

Enrollment is now open for the Summer 2018 program of the VKC Reading Clinic. The program consists of four 40-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions per week, Monday through Thursday, for 6 weeks, June 11-July 19. Tutoring sessions are typically scheduled between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Scheduled tutoring times will be based on tutor availability.

The session aims to serve struggling readers in grades K-8. Students will undergo non-diagnostic entry assessments to determine instructional needs and to target individual tutoring.  Progress will be measured regularly, and instruction will be adjusted accordingly. Parents will receive regular updates on their child’s progress during the session. The tuition for the full semester is $1,200.

To receive an application, complete this preliminary interest survey.

For more information about the VKC Reading Clinic, call (615) 936-5118 or e-mail

Elizabeth Turner is associate program manager for VKC Communications.

Giving Banner

This is a monthly email of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Notables published by the Communications staff of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Between issues of Notables, you can stay up to date on the latest Vanderbilt Kennedy Center news, information, and resources via the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Facebook page.